Feb 13, 2015

Packrafting the Chewaucan River

We finally got in our boats last weekend...warm rainy weather is making snow levels suck, and besides, rain on the snow means water in the creeks! Especially since a lot of our high desert creeks only run once a year...we looked East to find a potential river to run.

Load up the adventure-mobile!
Enter the Chewaucan River. At just over a 2 hour drive from Bend it was close enough, but without a gauge on the river we weren't sure if there would be enough flow...and since it had been raining throughout the state last week we thought chances were good.

I had been up there backpacking a few months ago, and noted that the 10-mile stretch along the road would be a pretty little section to try when water levels were good.

Kirk had decided to take his hardshell creek boat, but I'm faithful to my little yellow packraft, so we loaded up the car with a bike to run shuttle and took off on Saturday morning.

Sure enough, when we turned right into the river canyon at Paisley, OR, we saw water! Actually, the river was pumping. All that rain and snow melt had swollen the river, and we noted the lack of eddies, several munchy holes and what looked to be a channel primarily free from trees or hazards. Score!

We drove up to where the road started to leave the river, about 10 miles in, parked the car and hiked our boats down to the water, having decided to just boat a few miles back to our camp at Jones Crossing.

But a quick look at the map told us there was a least another 10 miles up stream we could try next time. The road was too muddy for my little Honda Fit, but we could walk in if needed. There's a reason they call them packrafts!

Note the barb wire Fence crossing the river, we paddled under three that were passable.

The wide meadow where we started meandered through what looks to be primarily a cow pasture, and I couldn't help but think as we boated down and got into some bouncy Class II rapids, that all those cow paddies were churning in the water that was now splashing of my face. Ugg.

It was a quick run, and before we knew it were back to camp, no hazards, a clear channel, and some fun bouncy waves right before camp. Nice!

Sunrise with coffee. Yes please.
A nifty little trick Kirk taught me: put a stick in the ground were water levels are, and you can see if the river is rising or falling. The next morning water levels had dropped quite a bit.
We're digging our new Hyperlite Mid
And then what did I spy across the river? Why a National Recreation Trail! The Fremont Trail meanders a beautiful 175 miles in these mountains. One day I will return for you.

It was a beautiful day on the water. The forecast called for rain all weekend, but we didn't see a drop.

The river was mellow for the most part.

It started to get a bit choppier as we got a few miles within range of Paisley. Boulder gardens and such...

Don't drink the cow dung water!

All and all a very successful weekend, considering we weren't sure if we would find enough water to boat. Without a gauge, it's a gamble, and spring is the most likely time for success. Or a crazy warm and dry winter like we're having this year.

And as luck would have it, we were right around the corner from Summer Lake Hotsprings. A soak after our paddle? Don't mind if I do.